Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Transphobic and Racially Confused

DISCLAIMER: I am a board member of the Audre Lorde Project, a New York based organization committed to the liberation of queer, trans, and two spirit people of color. The following blog is in no way reflective of the thoughts, positions, or opinions of the Audre Lorde Project, its staff, or its board. This is my personal rant on my personal blog, and as such I will say exactly what I damn please.

This letter is in response to a series of transphobic blog postings at the blog The Dirt from Dirt, including one which targets the Audre Lorde Project.

Dear Dirtywhiteboi67:

Let me begin by saying that I fully respect your right to belief what you would believe, to live your life as you would live it, and to identify how you would identify. As long as your beliefs and actions do not infringe on the right of others to believe and act in a way that is consistent with their best selves, then I will defend your right to do and say as you will.

However, when your beliefs and actions actively impede the right of others to express themselves in a way that is uplifting and powerful, is centered on their own personal truth, and reflects their own best selves, I have a problem.

Namely, I have a problem with your consistent and ugly bashing of trans folks and their right to be and live openly as transgendered individuals. From your vitriolic rants on your blog, which remind me of something I would find on the 700 Club or perhaps hear coming from the pulpit of the Westboro Baptist Church, it seems as if you have had severely negative personal experiences around your own struggle with identity.

From your blog, it would appear that at one point in time you may even have identified as transgendered, perhaps had elective surgery, and then later came to a different understanding of your identity. It seems, perhaps, at that time, instead of looking closely at your self and taking a moment to really conceptualize and look at the different ways that sexism, homophobia, transphobia, gender identity and the complex interactions between those issues created a circumstance where you were unable to see yourself clearly--- thus leading you to make choices for yourself that you later regretted--you instead lashed out at segments of the queer/trans community in a manner that is more reflective of self-hatred than any reasoned critique of your own experience.

I empathize with you. As a person of color that grew up in the upper Midwest, I had a hell of a time finding accepting spaces as a mixed race individual. I wasn't black or Latino enough for the blacks and Latinos. I wasn't Native enough for some Native people, while other Native folks wanted me to identify as Native to the exclusion of all else, and though I am half white, claiming whiteness would be an idiocy. I had to find my own way, and it involved some transformative and empowering experiences as well as some shitty and painful experiences (some of which were flat out created by me in my stumbling attempts to navigate a multiplicity of identities within complex communities that exist within specific socio-historical and political realities).

I could have handily blamed all black, Puerto Rican, Native American, and white folks for my own mistakes and missteps. But, frankly, since the only common factor in all of the equations surrounding my struggle with identity happen to be me, then it made sense for me to start at home. I looked closely at what I wanted from community, what I wanted from myself, and what I expected from community. I learned about how internalized racism and homophobia, classism, and other oppressions worked to have me see my own as enemies. Once my eyes had been opened to that insidious reality, I refused. I refused to see anyone with whom I shared a common or related struggle as an enemy.

This did not and does not mean that I fail to hold my allies and compadres accountable for the ways they participate or have participated in oppression or policing of identity or gate keeping or any number of other ways that we hurt and harm one another in an effort to feel safe in our identities. But this does mean that I will not lift myself up or find comfort in denying the existence, or the right to justice of anyone else that is fighting for their right to live free and liberated lives. It seems this is a lesson that you have failed to learn. I am sorry for you for that.

Having said that, here is the part where you as a white person need to shut up, sit down, and never ever speak again. You as a white woman do not now have and never will have the right to EVER SPEAK or COMMENT or in any way have an OPINION on the right of queer and trans people of color to self organize around our commonalities. You do not now nor EVER have the right to lay claim to one of our family, and here I am speaking clearly of Audre Lorde. While I did not know Audre, I do know Barbara Smith, Carmen Vazquez, Katherine Acey, Mandy Carter, and about a dozen of Audre's friends, and they all agree that she would have happily seen herself in communion with other queer folks of color, period. So, your righteous indignation on behalf of Audre is just another example of white folks trying to lay claim to people and figures that are not their own. From Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas down to Audre Lorde, I would invite you to keep your hands, feet, and words off of them and out of their mouths. Audre Lorde was a lesbian, and she was proud of being a lesbian. But she was a powerful black woman, and you do not get to speak for her. How dare you. Such blatant racism and life and legacy claiming by a white person is disgusting.

In the end, I would gladly and with all of my heart still sit on the board of directors of the Audre Lorde Project even if the only community it EVER served were trans and genderqueer people of color. As a biological male with all the privilege and power that entails, it is my responsibility to use my privilege to support the right to self-determination of my allies, and I do that with pride. I support the Sylvia River Law Project, I support the trans leadership of the Audre Lorde Project, which, Dirtywhiteboi67, is an organization committed to the liberation of all queer (gay, lesbian, bisexual), and trans, two spirit, same gender loving, pato, joto, punk people of color. Your personal hang ups do not now and never will define us, our work, or our liberation.

I sincerely hope you find the healing you need. In the meantime, I'd hope that you would sit down and learn a little bit of history. Because, sweetness, it was genderqueer and trans people of color that led those riots at Stonewall. It was the very people that you hate and vilify that made it possible for you to live your life in the way that you are living it---no matter how flawed and destructive that life may be. I sincerely wish you the best.


W. Brandon Lacy Campos


  1. We just wanted to offer some support and sympathy here.

    Dirtywhiteboi is a well know troll-ish figure on the internet and is kind of like low-rent US version of the UK's Julie Bindel. Both Bindel and Dirt are proponents of the Lesbian/Gay "purity" movement and like the rest of that crowd they spend a lot of time obsessively policing what they see as the borders of gender and sexual identity, harassing all queer-identified people who don't measure up their own deluded standards. Naturally bisexual, fluid, pansexual and other non "gold-star" queer-identified people are along with trans/gender-variant people are tops on their hateful hit parade so we have also been their targets.

    The Audre Lorde Project is well know and well respected among the vast majority of people in the LGBT/Queer community especially in the greater NYC area, so please do not let these fringe nuts prey on your mind too much. Remember, you all actually Contribute to the greater good, while all they and their crowd know how to do is whine, snark, snap, complain and try to tear good people down.

  2. Dude! You're an ALP board member? That's totally awesome. It fits though, they've really got their heads on straight relative to the "mainstream" GLBT organizations on a whole array of issues. They are a grassroots organization that has my total respect.

    P.S. The CAPCHA for this posting that came up was "trandia"? How cool is that? :)

  3. Hi Brandon,

    (I think this'll be a two-parter, knowing blogger.)

    Thank you for your response. I am personally troubled by white folks--male, female, or intersex, trans or cis, thinking they/we have the right to get up in faces of people of color about matters which they know little to nothing about and attempt to gain white supremacist control of every exchange or conflict.

    I am similarly troubled by males and men across race attempting to silence women of any race, which is partly what I experience you doing above. I don't believe your male privilege, power, and entitlements, including the privilege, power, and entitlement to tell women to shut up and never speak again to an issue of lesbian visibility, goes away just because you're queer and of color. Nor does mine. I'm white, male, Jewish, intergender, gay, and disabled. I cross places of privilege and oppression, as do you.

    It was upsetting to me to see Audre, who I've met and exchanged correspondence with, who fought very hard, as any of her friends know, to identify as *lesbian*, to have her termed something other than what she termed herself. I don't believe Barbara Smith or anyone else speaks for Audre Lorde, and am troubled by the way you disregard a white woman who was speaking to the issue of not invisibilising lesbianism, which is a woman's issue across race, which in my experience queer males have had a hand in dismissing and disrespecting for decades, including by refusing to engage responsibly and respectfully with radical lesbian activists and writers of all colors. Audre Lorde was radical, lesbian, and feminist. How many men do you know who put aside their male privileges to engage with the work of feminists and womanists? I can count on one hand the number of men I know.

    What I am unclear on is this: why would you or anyone else seek to deny her her lesbian identity, and instead put that under a larger banner of "queer"?

  4. Part 2 of 2:

    I identify as queer, intergender, and gay, and welcome anyone using any of those terms for me. Audre identified, as far as I know, as a gay-girl earlier in her life, and later as explicitly lesbian and feminist.

    Across class and race, and especially in the last fifteen to twenty years, there has been an effort to invisibilise lesbians of color in the media and beyond, as such. Does that concern you as a queer male who respects Audre's work? Do you find it male supremacist of you to not only tell a woman to shut up and to remain silent but also to refer to her as "sweetness", and to psychologise her anger? All of that comes across as misogynistically disrespectful to me. In what ways are you not treating her the way men, across race, typically treat women, across race? Do you believe your work with women of color entitles you to be misogynistic to white women?

    I am supportive of many projects, including the Audre Lorde Project, and also the work of Aishah Simmons and Tiona McClodden, in particular, to support visibility of Black lesbians.

    Audre Lorde was lesbian-identified. As someone within the trans community, isn't our politic one of respecting how we name ourselves rather crucial to establishing supportive community?

    It is my experience that the more privileges one has--particularly if male and/or white, the more structurally and institutionally entitled it appears one is to demand to be named as one sees fit. Few Black women I know have the option or the structural entitlement to be named by society as they wish to be named--or even to be seen as fully human. Men and whites are always at the ready to put Black women of any sexuality in the boxes they wish to see them in.

    I posted on this issue as well, and welcome your comment-response to my blog, as well as permission to cross-post your reply here to my blog. Here is the link:


    I welcome healing, respectful, productive, constructive engagement. I find that with venues like Facebook and other Internet meeting places, including blogs, the level of mutual respect and regard across difference has deteriorated substantially. I hope our exchange can not call for either of us to be silent, but rather to speak to one another with respect, across difference.

    I hope your efforts with TALP are going well and looking financially healthy through 2011.

  5. Hey Brandon,

    I reworked my comment a little bit, and here it is in my latest blog post.


    I hope this finds you well.


  6. Thanks my friends!

    @NYABN I am not giving her any real credence, but I felt as an ally that I needed to say something, particularly as she made a target out of Audre Lorde (as a person) and ALP as an organization. I appreciate, deeply, your solidarity!


    PS @Thomas I am! As of last October!


Thank you for sharing your thoughts, feelings, and insights. And thank you for reading!